What You Should Know About the FCRA

A credit history report
© Courtney Keating / Creative RF / Getty

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that details how consumer credit information can be collected, given out, and used. Under the FCRA, consumers have a right to view information in their credit file and dispute inaccurate information. The Federal Trade Commission, FTC, publishes the full text of the FCRA. Below is a summary of your rights under the FCRA.

FCRA Rules for Consumer Reporting Agencies

The FCRA defines consumer reporting agencies as companies who collects credit information about consumers for the purpose of selling the information to third parties.

Examples of consumer reporting agencies are the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They are not the only consumer reporting agencies in the U.S. In April 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a list of almost 50 different companies that self-identify as consumer reporting agencies. The FCRA rules for credit reporting applies to these agencies as well.

Under the FCRA, credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies are required to:

Provide you with a copy of your credit file at your request. You'll have to provide personal identifying information so the credit bureau can confirm that you're the person requesting your credit report. In some cases, the credit bureaus have to provide you a free copy of your credit report.

  • Once annually, through a centralized website annualcreditreport.com.
  • A business has taken adverse action (denied your application or charged a higher interest rate) because of information in your credit report
  • You're unemployed and planning to look for a job within the next 60 days
  • You're on welfare
  • You've been a victim of identity theft
  • Your credit report contains inaccurate information resulting from identity theft

Investigate information you dispute, unless you do not provide the bureau with enough information to investigate your dispute, you dispute everything on your credit report, or you redispute an item without offering additional information regarding your dispute.

Correct or delete inaccurate information within 30 days of your dispute or up to 45 days if you send additional information after submitting your written dispute.

Delete outdated (negative) information more than seven to ten years old depending on the type of information.

Limit access to your file to only those businesses that have a permissible purpose for viewing your credit report. 

Provide your credit report to employers only with your written consent.

Provide you with a copy of your credit score upon your request.

Give you the opportunity to opt-out of prescreened credit offers.

Requirements for Information Furnishers

The FCRA applies to more than just credit bureaus. The businesses who provide information to the credit bureaus, information furnishers, also have obligations. For instance they:

  • Cannot report inaccurate information.
  • Must promptly update and correct any inaccurate information previously provided to the credit bureaus.
  • Must tell you about any negative information reported to the credit bureaus within 30 days.
  • Must let the credit bureaus known when you voluntarily close an account.
  • Must have a procedure for responding to identity theft notices sent by the credit bureaus.
  • Cannot report accounts that you've previously reported were the result of identity theft.

    You have the right to dispute inaccurate credit report information directly with the information furnisher, in writing. After receiving your dispute, the creditor must notify the credit bureau of your dispute and is not allowed to continue reporting inaccurate information until it has investigated your dispute.

    Requirements for Businesses Who Use Your Credit Report Information

    Companies may request to see your credit report if they have a "permissible purpose," for example, to grant credit to you after you've made an application. The FCRA requires that these businesses:

    • Let you know when you've been turned down because of information in your credit report
    • Provide you with the name and address of the credit bureau who supplied the report used in the decision to turn you down.

    Dealing With FCRA Violations

    You can seek damages from a business that violates your rights under the FCRA, whether it's the credit bureau, an information furnisher, or a user of your credit report information.